In 1998 the LX Fox-body received a Cobra makeover while running in Stock Eliminator trim.
Once upon a time, Muscle Mustangs & Fast Fords magazine was at ground zero of the 5-liter Mustang movement. MM&FF headquarters was located minutes away from the Mustang mayhem that was happening at nearby Raceway Park in Englishtown, New Jersey, and its former editor, the now deceased Steve Collison, led the way by bringing his Mean Mr. Mustang project car to print for the world to see. The short-lived project showed what a few bolt-ons and some superior driving could do with the then-new 5.0 Fox Mustang, and it wasn't long before others followed suit.
"I was a Chevy guy before I read the articles on Mean Mr. Mustang," says Arlington, Tennessee's Jeff Swanson. "I was building a '67 Nova to compete in NHRA Stock Eliminator before my wife and I decided to sell it and order a new Mustang." But he wasn't alone.
The quick and agile ponycar had many GM loyalists jumping ship. Swanson ordered his as a no-option, black '88 Mustang LX. "I drove it daily for about a year and realized I was putting too much mileage on it, so my wife, Laura, drove it to keep the miles down," Jeff says.
Back in the day, aftermarket support for the Mustang was in its infancy, so mods were few and far between. "The M&H Racemasters were the popular thing at the time," Jeff says. "We'd go to the track, swap tires, race, and then go home." Utilizing the soon-to-be-legendary 10-minute tune-up procedure of advancing the timing, adding a K&N, removing the intake air silencer, icing the intake, and throwing on a short-belt (though Jeff didn't use the short-belt because you couldn't use one without air conditioning), his best elapsed time was a speedy 13.50.
Around 1993, the little LX was taken off the road permanently, and Jeff raced it at local bracket races, mastering the powershift and learning how to extract the most from his 302-powered Pony. In 1996, he entered the NHRA Stock Eliminator ranks, a category that rewards drivers for consistency and performance. Jeff faired well against the slew of carbureted musclecars, even in the heads-up "Class Eliminations" portion of the events.
The only power option is under the hood. Manual locks and windows save weight, and despite
"We ran a 28x9-inch slick tire and used a set of MAC headers that we ran open," Jeff says. Other than that, the valve covers had never been off and entering the NHRA was a big step for the Volunteer-State resident. "We ran right at the index, which at the time was around 12.85," he says.
One day, while at an NHRA points meet, Jeff struck up a conversation with engine builder Jim Kuntz of Kuntz and Company Performance in Arkadelphia, Arkansas. "Jim expressed an interest in the fuel-injected cars, so I had him blueprint a set of E7TE cylinder heads," Jeff says. For the next 10 years, Kuntz would supply his Stock Eliminator powerplants, with which Jeff claimed eight national records for both speed and elapsed time and over a dozen NHRA Wally trophies.
Editor Evan Smith, who also competes with Project Stocker in the same class met up with Jeff at an MM&FF event in Memphis years ago, and since there weren't a lot of EFI Mustangs in Stock, the two developed a friendly rivalry that spanned phone lines as each would call the other to let them know they just went faster.